#558 1994 Hungarian Grand Prix

2021-04-05 01:00

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#1994, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero,

#558 1994 Hungarian Grand Prix

In the wave of violence that has been sweeping through sport for some time now, there is a new worrying episode. Luckily nothing happened, but the dan


In the wave of violence that has been sweeping through sports for some time now, there is a new worrying episode. Luckily nothing happened, but the danger this time may have been real. The alarm was raised by Damon Hill. On Tuesday, the Williams driver revealed in a column he wrote and signed in a number of English newspapers, that he had been threatened with death during the recent German Grand Prix. An unknown person phoned his team on Friday and said that someone would shoot Hill if it loomed over his victory at the expense of the home champion and leader of the World Championship standings, Michael Schumacher. 


"Of course, it could also have been a prank threat, but these days you never know and we took every precaution possible. To enter the circuit I used to go through a secondary entrance and every time I left I was followed by a police escort. Not only that, but I had a guard in front of my hotel room door every night". 


Indeed, the German fans in those days were very agitated. Their new idol Schumacher had been heavily disqualified after the Grand Prix and might not have raced in Hockenheim if he had not appealed to the FIA. Almost certainly the German's absence would have caused serious disturbances as some organised fan groups had announced that anything could happen, up to and including not allowing the race to take place. Then Michael and the Benetton (also under pressure from the police who feared the situation would escalate) decided to go to the track. And it seemed that this sporting gesture had calmed tempers. But it did not, evidently. 


"I did my best not to think about the threat but the morning of the race was not easy for me. On top of everything I felt, from the animosity of part of the public, that some people were angry with me for Schumacher's problems. As if I had been the cause of his troubles. He had made a mistake in England and was rightly punished. I complied with the usual procedure of taking part in the drivers' parade and as I sat at the back of an open car with my team-mate David Coulthard, the constant throwing of rockets and firecrackers from the grandstands certainly didn't help to keep me calm even though I know it is a tradition at Hockenheim". 


Even during the race, which ended in eighth place after a pit-stop to repair his car following a collision with Katayama's Tyrrell, Hill was scared. But, as Schumacher had also retired on lap 20, he never had a chance to overtake the German. 


"That would have been a dramatic moment". 


Obviously the German driver was in the dark. But between the two rivals vying for the world title the friction is bound to increase. Michael Schumacher has a 27-points lead over Damon Hill, but will probably have to serve at least one race disqualification, assuming the two race suspension is reduced on appeal. 


"Also, Williams is growing and it seems to me that Benetton is less competitive. And then now also Schumacher will have to reckon with a Ferrari that is back on top".


The threats to Hill must surely have been just an idiotic system of intimidation. But of fools and criminals the world is full. Just think of the case of the poor Colombian footballer Escobar. In Formula 1, there is only one precedent from memory, but it is less serious. Several years ago during some free practice at Monza, Alain Prost was the object of a stone-throwing by fans who saw in the Frenchman an inconvenient rival for Ferrari. Alain turned up at the Italian Grand Prix escorted by a couple of bodyguards hired by Renault. But nobody bothered him. In the meantime, there is some lightening up on the subject of the Monza circuit. 


Now there are two projects presented to the Federation: the first, by SIAS, the company that manages the circuit, does not envisage cutting down trees but a modification to the track between the Variante della Roggia and the two Lesmo bends. The second is by CSAI (the Italian automobile federation), which envisages a smaller cut of trees than the previous project and the opening of an escape route only in the second Lesmo bend. If the proposal is accepted, (while on Thursday, 4 August 1994, the Council of Ministers will decide on the tree cutting), it will also have to be approved by the drivers. The Italians announce that they will press for the race to be held. On the racing front, Ferrari's practice resumes at Fiorano with Alesi, while Benetton opens an enquiry into the causes of the blaze during the refuelling of Verstappen's car. McLaren finally decided to let its third driver, Philippe Alliot, race in Hungary in place of Mika Hakkinen, who was disqualified. In Maranello, Jean Todt is always the last to leave, late in the evening. He leaves his spacious office in the Gestione Sportiva building at Fiorano and, as he closes the door, he glances around to see if everything is in order. Normally it is perfect, even the lighting direction seems to have been studied by a film expert. Jean Todt, 48, a Frenchman from Alsace, is meticulous to the point of fussiness, he demands method, rigour and - precisely - order from his collaborators. It is his mini-decalogue, made up of just three rules that everyone, including him, respects. For the past year, he has been in charge of the Ferrari racing team. 


"The dream of everyone who loves cars". 


Under the supervision of President Montezemolo, he has revolutionised the team. With decisive and perhaps even painful cuts, but without mercy. The goal, declared a year ago when he took the helm, was to return to winning ways. He achieved it last Sunday in Germany. A success also helped by luck? 


"No. Wanted. If we had been lucky, Alesi would have come through as well. At Hockenheim we not only came first, but also got the front row in qualifying".


What is behind Ferrari's recovery? 


"The men. The organisation. And of course the method and the rigour. We tried to plan the work and put the right people in the right place". 


Some say that Ferrari has also been helped by the regulatory changes... 


"I don't agree. If everything had remained as before, maybe we would have struggled less. We had to change everything. You have to remember that Ferrari does everything by itself. The others prepare a chassis and then look for a good engine".


What were the biggest problems? 


"Everything. The internal and external pressures, the delay we had, the opponents. The only real cure for a team is results. Now we have more serenity and we will try to maintain the same commitment".


Are you happy with the Ferrari drivers? After all, you have already found them in the team. 


"And I have confirmed them. Berger has been extraordinary since the beginning of the year. He only made one mistake at Silverstone, but we also made mistakes because we didn't always give him a car that was competitive and easy to drive. Alesi will come to win, too". 


But Gerhard and Jean also said after Hockenheim that the cars are still not perfect. 


"That is the goal we have set for ourselves. We have some modifications ready and others planned. We want to prepare a balanced car. Then we will be able to make the set-ups that each driver prefers".


To win, you also had to make a new engine... 


"It was necessary. Now we have an extra weapon. It is a young engine, so it can still improve, still be developed. We want to have the best utilisation on all kinds of circuit". 


The first objective was to win a race. The second? 


"To win another one. And not after four years. Jokes aside, we hope to be competitive in all the next six races".


Even on Sunday the 14th of August 1994, in Budapest, on a track considered too slow and twisty for Ferrari? 


"Why not? We hadn't done so badly at Monte-Carlo". 


The Drivers' World Championship seems to be a matter reserved for Schumacher and Hill? And the one reserved for the makes? 


"For the constructors it is open. In order, to Benetton, Williams and Ferrari. But we don't want to think about it. We live, for now, by the day. Without forgetting, however, that we aim to be constantly at the top with all our might".


While at Maranello people are finally beginning to breathe again the air of victory, in parallel, Formula 1 continues to experience another hot summer of controversy and discussion. While on Friday, 5 August 1994, the Council of Ministers in Italy endorsed the law that would allow the Grand Prix to be held on Sunday, 11 September 1994 at Monza (but opposition is still very strong and surprises are not excluded), news is rebounding about the cause of Ayrton Senna's accident and death at Imola on the first of May 1994. Indiscretions about the investigations carried out by the judiciary and led by Judge Maurizio Passarmi, suggest that the Brazilian's Williams leaving the track was caused by a broken steering wheel. The Italian specialist weekly Autosprint had already made the hypothesis of this failure, a week after the race. The theory had been supported with a series of photographs and drawings showing the metal tube in question broken in half, at the height of the first rib of the car's nose. The latest information, which is evidently based on information that has escaped scrutiny, seems to offer even more detail. The experts in charge of shedding light on the episode and examining the wreckage of the Williams have now ruled out any other conclusions, such as human error, suspension problems or tyre problems. The metallographic examination of the broken column would have revealed that it was not a collision, but a genuine breakage before impact. Williams, according to a statement by designer Adrian Newey, admitted that the column had been reduced in diameter to allow Senna a better view of the on-board instrumentation. But the British team rejects all accusations, saying that only when the official results of the investigation are available in October will it be possible to know the real reason that caused the tragic accident. It is clear that Williams will then present its counter-deductions. Doubts arise at this point: does Williams have something to hide about Senna's death? 


And, in any case, is it doing everything possible (despite having always declared its total willingness) to facilitate the task of the Italian magistrates investigating the Imola accident? After the indiscretion about the breakage of the steering column on the Brazilian champion's car, there is confirmation from Bologna that one of the two black boxes - i.e. the on-board computers that instantly record all the information on the single-seaters in the race, like those on aircraft - has no memory. That is, it has lost all the data that should have been contained in its electronic circuits. And among these could also have been, precisely, the recording concerning the possible mechanical failure that has been talked about for some time. The control unit in question is for the moment not under investigation by the public prosecutor Maurizio Passarini, but it could become so once the commission of experts has delivered its final report. According to information, the experts commissioned by the magistrate at the court of Bologna found that the black box had been opened before it reached their hands. Nothing was left inside. So there is no possibility of obtaining any information. And, on the outside of the box there is a hole, almost certainly not produced by the impact against the low wall at the Tamburello curve. The black box is currently in the hands of the experts. When their work is finished and the final report to be delivered to Passarini is drawn up, it is possible that the magistrate will open an inquiry into this anomalous event. It is just as likely that other experts will be appointed precisely to ascertain whether there was any tampering with the black box. On the evening of the 1st of May 1994, after Senna's tragic death, the two black boxes were taken one to England, by Williams technicians (unserviceable because damaged in the crash against the wall), and one to France, by Renault technicians (who downloaded the data and kept them safe in the databases, but eliminated them and overwritten the original). They returned to Italy at the disposal of the Bologna magistracy, only after repeated and specific requests. Among other things - but this does not concern the criminal investigation or even the reason for the car going off the track - the experts in charge of examining the wreckage of the car also discovered a technical irregularity: the accelerator wire started from the pedal but did not reach the engine. 


A solution prohibited by the rules in force since this year that prohibit electronic driver aids. In theory the British team could be disqualified for the whole season. But this will almost certainly not happen, because there is no interest in losing a major player in the Formula One World Championship. If, on the other hand, the final report of the experts were to establish an actual mechanical failure on Ayrton Senna's single-seater, it could be assumed that the manufacturer Frank Williams and the designers of the car (in particular the technical manager Patrick Head, who is also a shareholder in the team) are guilty of manslaughter. This is not the first time this has happened. And this is probably the reason for what could be magnanimously described as ill-concealed reticence. Meanwhile, as has been said, the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at Monza will take place. This, at least, is what can be deduced from the decision taken by the Council of Ministers (despite the attempts of the head of the Department of Cultural Heritage, Senator Domenico Fisichella, who was clearly against it). The Council approved Law 188 of the Lombardy Region, which had given permission for the renovation work to be carried out. Protests and criticism from the Greens, PDS, Legambiente, Club Pannella and WWF. There are also threats of criminal action, the solution is still a long way off. In the meantime, the CSAI sends the FIA the new project that requires the felling of less than 100 trees (instead of the 524) and the adoption of special synthetic protections at the first Lesmo corner. The FIA, however, only grants permission for 1994, so next year everything will again be called into question. Now it remains to be seen how the bureaucratic process will develop while the approval of the drivers' association, led by Gerhard Berger, is still missing. But, while for the first point doubts remain (and time is running out), as far as the opinion of the riders is concerned this should be positive and the new project accepted. Incidentally, Imola is also experiencing days of uncertainty. Work to remake the circuit according to the riders' requests is partially blocked for environmental reasons. And if everything is not ready by September, the FIA will not be able to include the race in the calendar and will be forced to move the San Marino Grand Prix elsewhere. But the rumours do not stop there. In fact, there are rumours in Germany that Ford will leave Benetton because its image is declining after the recent events and disqualifications. But hasn't Schumacher's team already signed with Renault for 1995? 


On the eve of the Hungarian Grand Prix people are asking: Is Ferrari's victory in Germany only due to chance? The answer is negative. When you take pole position and stay in the lead for the whole race, as Berger did (and Schumacher, at least until lap 20, was there), success is deserved. But this does not mean that the Maranello team has solved all its problems. The German circuit, two straights linked by chicanes, plus a short mixed stretch where it is impossible to overtake, is particularly suited to Italian cars. The situation is different for the Hungarian Grand Prix, the tenth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, scheduled for Sunday, 14 August 1994. The Budapest track, narrow and winding, therefore slow, does not seem to be favourable to the 412T1/B. The prediction, however, has to take into account several factors. And if you look carefully at the pros and cons, you will see that Ferrari could be the protagonist at the Hungaroring, even if it will have to work much harder than it did two weeks earlier, in Germany, to aim for first place. The car has been profoundly modified and these days is undergoing special care to adapt it to the track on which it will be engaged from Friday in practice and qualifying. The braking system (decisive in Budapest) has been revised and special suspension configurations have been worked on. The new 043 engine has also undergone an adaptation, while small slits could be opened on the bodywork to ensure a better disposal of the heat produced by the engine itself. In short, Todt and his men spared no effort. Still on Monday, 8 August 1994, Jean Alesi will be working at Mugello and Larini will be at Balocco on Tuesday to carry out aerodynamic tests. The Frenchman hates the Budapest circuit, but Berger (and this is another positive fact) loves it. Last year he was third behind Alain Prost and Riccardo Patrese, both in Williams. Another consideration to make concerns qualifying. Having a very powerful engine, should the Maranello team manage to start at the front, it would have a better chance of success as overtaking at the Hungaroring is almost prohibitive and in any case very risky.


In short, Ferrari could also give its rivals some grief. Even if logic says that Michael Schumacher (pending appeal by the FIA for double disqualification) and Damon Hill remain the favourites. In Budapest, contrary to what some think, refuelling will not be abolished. This is not possible: the cars are almost all built to hold a maximum of 200 litres, in some races they would not make it to the end. The pit stop for refuelling is an added risk, but it must also be said that a start with all single-seaters with a full tank is also a risk. And then refuelling is not compulsory. Meanwhile, the gruelling story about the Monza circuit continues. There is no certainty, neither of a race, nor the opposite. The controversy rages on, even within the two factions. An Italian story. On Sunday, 7August 1994, the environmentalists stage a demonstration in the forest where the plants are to be cut down. Someone suggests going back to the solution of putting a chicane before the Lesmo corners. They have not understood that the drivers do not want any more chicanes, and that those accepted at Barcelona and Montreal were the result of an emergency. On Wednesday, the 10th of August 1994, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage will give its final opinion on the interventions approved by the Council of Ministers. In short, there is little talk of sport even on the eve of the Hungarian Grand Prix. In the eye of the storm besides the Monza circuit, there is still the Benetton team, attacked from all sides. Along with an asphyxiating supremacy that has been in evidence since the start of the season, the team is evidently being reproached for a certain arrogance, for having led the rebellion against the FIA in Barcelona and also for having become, in a way, the owner of another team, Ligier. All topped off by the suspicion of having used systems on his cars that were considered non-regulation. On Thursday, the 11th of August 1994, the FIA made it known that it neither liked nor accepted the explanation given by Benetton on the tampering with the petrol delivery system for refuelling. Martin Whitaker, the FIA press officer, states:


"They talked about a verbal communication with one of our technicians. But the regulations are clear: every modification must be submitted in writing to the Federation, which in turn asks Intertechnique, the company that manufactures and manages the systems, for an opinion. Then, if everything is OK, authorisation is given. This has not happened". 


But the trouble for Benetton did not end there. Apart from having to appear before the World Council on Wednesday, 19 October, 1994 to explain what happened (we would like to know why the FIA waits so long to judge...) the team managed by Flavio Briatore is now looked upon with distrust. 


After the black box case (a traction control programme discovered in the ECUs of Schumacher and Lehto's cars) and the black flag at Silverstone, the Hockenheim fire episode has also turned against Benetton, which has passed from the role of victim to that of accused. And it is above all the British teams that are fuelling the doubts, the suspicions. 


"Not only did they gain time on refuelling by having the petrol filter removed, but we can also speculate that such a ploy could be used to run with an underweight car. We can control a refuelling knowing that it takes a second to put 12 litres of petrol into the tank. But if the flow is greater, more fuel is introduced for the same amount of time. So for the final part of a race you can have more fuel to arrive at the weight check perfectly in order". 


It is clear that these are only theoretical possibilities. In any case, the FIA states that from now on the cars will be weighed without fuel to check whether they meet the 515-kg minimum. As if that wasn't enough, in a press conference, Gerhard Berger also raged at the Benetton team and Michael Schumacher: 


"Michael had said that I had made the wrong tactic at Hockenheim and that he would have won if he had not broken the engine. I have made many mistakes in my life but not in Germany. If I were Schumacher I would worry about looking inside myself and those around me. I have a good relationship with him. But there are many, too many rumours of irregularities about Benetton. And a driver always knows everything about his car. If the rumours are confirmed, he risks losing respect, including mine. In any case Benetton will have a lot of explaining to do".


Small space for the day's news. Ferrari brings a new slow track wing to Budapest. Finally, Renault announces that it has renewed its contract with Williams for three years. Which will be the second team supplied by the French company? Benetton, Ligier or will there be a surprise? On Friday, 12 August 1994, while the first time trials are underway in Budapest, the FIA cancels the Formula One Italian Grand Prix. But the situation could still allow room for manoeuvre, after the letter that Undersecretary Gianni Letta, on behalf of the Council Presidency, sends to Max Mosley, President of the FIA. Silvio Berlusconi adds: 


"I hope that the Grand Prix will be held. The plants will not have to be cut down, it has been raced at Monza for 70 years, I hope that there will be a common sense solution that can ensure that, leaving the plants standing, we can still have the Italian Grand Prix". 


And Umberto Bossi reiterates: 


"They cannot take the Grand Prix away from us, for 70 years it has represented the flag of the best Lombard and therefore Italian technology".


The Paris decision is due to the continuing uncertainty of the Italian authorities to authorise the agreed safety work. The FIA had requested some changes to the track, in line with the safety measures introduced after the deaths of Senna and Ratzenberger. An FIA statement recalls:


"On the 26th of July, by a unanimous vote, the World Motor Sport Council and the FIA urgently requested an official and unconditional guarantee from ACI that the 1994 Italian Grand Prix would be held at Monza in accordance with the safety measures agreed between the FIA, ACI and the circuit". 


The need to make some modifications to the track and to create some escape routes at the height of the Lesmo corner had also been hoped for by the drivers, and duly confirmed after some inspections. However, these interventions would have entailed the felling of more than 500 trees in the Monza park, including about a hundred very valuable century-old oaks; subsequently, the number of trees to be felled was reduced to 123. The project had aroused heated controversy with environmentalists in general, and with opposition political forces. At the end of a long diatribe that lasted weeks, and despite the fact that the Lombardy region had given a favourable opinion on a law giving the go-ahead for the work, Milan's Superintendency of Environmental Heritage had denied permission for the trees to be cut down. On Wednesday, the government had declared itself in favour of a compromise solution (adoption of a chicane to slow down speed). The appeal to the FIA is aimed precisely at finding, at the last minute, a solution that allows the race to take place. Gianni Letta writes:


"Faced with the definitively ascertained impossibility of proceeding with the cutting of the trees, in order to save the race it is absolutely necessary to find a different solution, similar to those indicated by the AC Milan and relating to the adoption of one or more chicanes, a solution that, on the other hand, has already been adopted to everyone's satisfaction at other circuits". 


Letta goes on to acknowledge that, as far as the Monza circuit is concerned, the FIA has already rejected this proposal:


"But now the Italian government formally and officially re-proposes it as the only one capable of securing the result that cannot be renounced for us: the race must be held at Monza".


Letta adds that he has also sent the document to the ACI and the CSAI, and says that everyone agrees on the proposal, from the Lombardy region to the municipality of Monza, from the concessionaire to the organisers. Cancelling the Italian Grand Prix would be tantamount to erasing the prestigious name of Monza from the roll of honour of world motorsport, and this in defiance of its history, its traditions, and the very commitment of the government and the organisers. The letter concludes by hoping that Max Mosley (former driver) will take up the appeal, given his sensitivity, his acknowledged sense of justice and respect for legality, and, above all, his passion for sport. The news arrives in Budapest in the early afternoon, while the drivers and teams are engaged in the first qualifying round of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The reactions are practically unanimous, of surprise and substantially very negative. Only Michael Schumacher, leader of the World Championship standings, appears impassive in the face of the decision taken by the FIA. 


"It had reached a point where it was necessary to take a clear position. Not having had any guarantees, the Federation did the right thing in removing the race from the calendar". 


Incidentally: there is no official talk of replacements, but candidates to take Monza's place are there and names are being mentioned. They are the new Nurburgring (and here is the reason for Schumacher's attitude) and Donington. The problems only concern the dates, which are difficult to fit into the calendar given the advanced season. There is a risk of rain and fog. Even in England, however, people are pressing because they could have Mansell in the race and make a full house with a relatively rich income. Berger, representative of the GPDA, the drivers' association, is categorical:


"This cancellation is bad for Formula 1, for Ferrari, for me and Alesi who were counting a lot on the Monza track to try to win another race. We cannot do anything more, we have to respect the decisions, even if we are bitter and sorry". 


Jean Alesi's speech was heartfelt: 


"I am disappointed, hurt. I am also hurt by the way the decision was taken. I don't think anything can be blamed on the organisers, their hands were tied. You know better than me what Italy is like. However, I am also shocked at the way Fia has turned its back on the Italian fans. Inside I hope that something can be done". 


Cesare Fiorio and Flavio Briatore are of the same opinion, amazed at how a piece of motor racing history has been thrown away. While Bernie Ecclestone, entrenched behind his dual role as vice-president of the FIA and head of the Manufacturers' Association, expresses no judgement, but limits himself to saying that everything had been done to wait for Monza to solve its problems. It should be noted, however, that precisely Monza, as well as Monte-Carlo, is the only circuit that has not left the television and advertising rights to the real patron of Formula 1. The Roman Andrea de Cesaris also underlines some sporting and human aspects of the affair: 


"No one thought of the tens of thousands of fans disappointed because they have no power and no political support. Nor to the 100 employees of the company that manages the autodrome, who will most likely be out of work". 


The cancellation also affects the sponsors. Among them is Agip, which invests millions of dollars in Formula 1. Armando Bianchi, marketing director of the Italian oil company, explains:


"This story also contributes to tarnishing the image of a sport that is already going through difficult times".


Meanwhile, from Italy, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo declares:


"Ferrari notes with dismay and sorrow the cancellation of the Italian Grand Prix. Monza represents part of our history and we had the well-founded hope of being able to let our fans relive the great joys of the past this year. Unfortunately, while other countries were quickly adapting their circuits after the events at Imola, in Italy political, bureaucratic and environmental problems prevented us from carrying out the work that the drivers had been asking for since June, with our support". 


Speaking instead of the results obtained on the track, in Budapest, Michael Schumacher said:


"This is the best response we can give after the problems and difficulties that have been created around our team. It's good to be back in front of everyone".


And with this sentence, pronounced after taking provisional pole position in the first qualifying round of the Hungarian Grand Prix, the German closes all talks and avoids further controversy. On a slow and twisty circuit, more suited to Williams, the World Championship leader defends himself strongly, putting his opponents under. The usual slow heartbeat lap and that's it. Only Damon Hill holds out, pulling away by just 0.2 seconds. The others? Far away, including Ferrari. Berger and Alesi, in fact, do not go beyond P5 and P7, with gaps that take the Maranello team back to the most difficult times at the start of the season. Over 1.5 seconds, an abyss. And even beyond the most pessimistic of predictions. There is little to say: the 412 T1, not even with the modifications that added the letter B to the car's initials, can cope with certain circuits. The car jumps like a prancing horse. And the super-powerful engine can almost be considered a handicap, because at low revs it has a very slow acceleration response. Gerhard Berger, who is always a realist, speaks plainly: 


"I said that in Budapest our goal would be the second row. And the facts have confirmed that I was right. I hope for the second round, provided we find the right solutions for the set-up". 


Jean Alesi is more optimistic, having justified his own performance:


"The car was unstable on the uneven asphalt. In those conditions you couldn't do any more. And it is also difficult to make a judgement on the engine because I could not exploit it. But I am convinced that there is room for improvement and a lot of it". 


In fact, Ferrari - at least in appearance - has not had the chance to prepare good set-ups by making full use of all the changes made in recent days to its single-seaters. The aerodynamic changes (rear wing and front wing), suspension, springs, dampers, buffers, everything has to be put together to work well, but it takes time. And one more day of testing can only do good, even if for the race one can only hope for so much. At the Hungaroring you have to start on pole position, overtaking is almost prohibitive. Michael Schumacher's on-track response, meanwhile, does not prevent Flavio Briatore, Benetton's team manager, from giving some explanations on what has happened in recent days and on the accusations made against his team. In a statement, the Italian manager reiterates that there has now been a full acquittal regarding the automatic start system found in the on-board computer ('It is proven that we never used it') and claims again that the fact of having removed the filter from the fuel nozzle for refuelling had been made known to the FIA technician in words. There is a certain confidence, in short, at Benetton that they can defend themselves well before the Formula One World Council when the time comes. In the meantime, Intertechnique, the company that has supplied the systems for the flying pit-stop refuelling to all the teams, is changing something in the nozzles so that the valves that block the petrol in the event of an abnormal outflow will also work when something abnormal happens. A prudent measure. But it also means that the system can be improved. The attacks on Briatore and Benetton, however, do not end there. In Budapest, the Manufacturers' Association is meeting to examine the problem that has arisen with the Italian manager's takeover of Ligier, who says that it is Ferrari that is raising the issue. 


"Is it legitimate for someone to have four cars under control, when everyone else has two?"


Again, however, Flavio Briatore has a ready joke: 


"I don't have four single-seaters. At Benetton I am just an executive, while at Ligier I am the majority shareholder". 


So the challenge continues, not only on the track. Fists on the tables, big words, arguments. On Saturday, 13 August 1994, everything happened at the drivers' association meeting promoted by Jean Alesi to talk about the Monza issue and the Italian Grand Prix removed from the calendar. In the end it is decided to wait for official communications from the FIA before taking any initiative. Gerhard Berger, responsible for safety, declares:


"It is useless for us to make proposals, to agree to race or the other way around, if they do not let us know first whether the race will be held. Should the Federation have second thoughts, we will meet again and study the minimum demands for the work to be done at the autodrome and then we will vote. The majority will win".


A wise and balanced stance, that of the Austrian. However, his compatriot Niki Lauda, present here with his ribs bandaged from his ski jet accident, and advisor to the association, issues a warning: 


"If you accept, you set a dangerous precedent. You start all over again, what has been done so far becomes useless". 


After almost two hours of discussion, the group of twenty-seven drivers (Alboreto has long since dissociated himself and does not attend meetings) splits into three parts: those in favour, those against and those who, like Berger, prefer to wait to see and decide. In favour of Monza are obviously Jean Alesi, Alessandro Zanardi, Pierluigi Martini, Andrea de Cesaris, Gianni Morbidelli and Damon Hill, who loves the Lombard circuit where he won last year. Leading the opposing side instead is Michael Schumacher:


"It is now decided. We waited too long, the required work was not carried out. We are skipping the race as the FIA wants".


Pierluigi Martini replied harshly to the German: 


"You only want to do your own thing. At Monza your car will be less competitive and in addition one less race in the championship would favour you, since you are leading the classification. We instead want to race because Monza is no more dangerous than other tracks. We raced at Monte-Carlo and it's still not certain that the changes made at Spa are a guarantee of safety. We make one or two chicanes at Lesmo, or we change the angle of the second corner and there won't be any problems". 


The general impression in the environment, however, is that by now the Grand Prix will not take place. Who will take responsibility if the slightest accident happens at Monza, after all this controversy? Even Bernie Eccleslone, president of FOCA, the constructors' association, is categorical: 


"Mosley and all of us have waited too long. There has never been a concrete proposal. The deadline was 26 July, we delayed it. At this point the blame for the cancellation is not ours". 


Also talking about Monza is Frank Williams, who says he is also calmly awaiting the judgement of the Bologna judiciary after the enquiry into Senna's death with one of his cars: 


"My three favourite circuits are Imola, São Paulo and Monza. They are the tracks where you can feel that motor racing is loved. This is the worst moment Formula 1 has ever experienced". 


Rumour has it that Ecclestone already has a reserve ready. If no positive solution is reached for Monza, a race at the new Nürburgring in Germany could be announced as early as Monday. On the same date as the Italian Grand Prix. That is to say Sunday, 11 September 1994. To speed up the rather complex organisation, passes and tickets already printed for the cancelled race would even be used. 


"It is our race. It has given us the most beautiful successes".


Meanwhile, from Italy, Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo clearly rejects any attempt to blame Ferrari for the cancellation of the Monza Grand Prix. 


"This is not the moment to say too many words, but it is the moment for facts. Ferrari is certainly not doing everything possible to have the Grand Prix that it considers its Grand Prix. There was just such a meeting of the drivers with Lauda in Budapest to try to make a concrete contribution to the realisation of a race that, if it were really cancelled, would be an affront to all the fans and also to the Italian car industry. I still have the flags waving last September in my eyes; they were celebrating Alesi when he came second in what can be described as our Grand Prix of redemption. That is why we will leave no stone unturned, in compliance with safety regulations. Because we must not forget what was said and written after the Imola tragedy". 


These words were followed by a statement released to Ansa. 


"Only those who do not know the history of motor racing can question the relationship between Ferrari and the Monza circuit, to which we have linked our greatest successes over 50 years. On this track, by the way, I experienced perhaps the best day of my life when in 1975 we won the world title with Lauda. And this year we had the well-founded desire to make our fans relive the joys of the past. Ferrari will leave no stone unturned with the international sporting powers, the Italian political authorities and the drivers' association, so that this Grand Prix, which we consider to be our Grand Prix, can take place in full respect of safety".


And even the president of Fiat, Giovanni Agnelli, hopes that a solution will be found to prevent the circuit from being cancelled from the Formula 1 calendar. 


"Monza is too important to resign ourselves to losing the Grand Prix. The problem must be solved. In Europe Monza is like Indianapolis in America. It is certainly the most important historical name in all of motorsport, probably together with Monte Carlo, although for different reasons: the Monza circuit is older, has more history and more legend. I cannot forget that the first race at Monza was won by Bordino with Fiat. When Fiat raced, they won at Monza. The problem has to be solved by artificial means, such as chicanes. Drivers and sporting authorities have to agree. We care about that circuit, because between us and Monza there is a strong intertwining of history and successes".


With its focus on what is happening with the Monza circuit, Formula 1 continues its journey with difficulty. This year, unfortunately, amidst misfortunes, controversies and discussions, non-sporting events have the upper hand over competitive ones. And so we lose sight of episodes of absolute importance, such as what happened in the last qualifying round of the Hungarian Grand Prix. With his masterful driving and thanks to a car - the Benetton - that beyond all polemics and doubts is certainly a supercar, Michael Schumacher conquers a superb pole position. The German starts ahead of everyone with a great chance of winning. On a narrow and winding track like the Hungaroring, with its prohibitive overtaking, it was necessary to be the fastest, and Michael was great at it: 1'18"258 (at an average speed of 182.534 km/h) on his best lap, about 0.6 seconds better than Damon Hill. A blow that could be a knockout if serious threats of disqualification did not hang over the championship and the young star that could revolutionise the standings. After the victory in Germany many were also hoping for an exploit by Ferrari. The chronometric response, however, rejects the Maranello team on the positions of a few months ago. The fault of a particular track, unsuited to the characteristics of the Italian cars. But if you want to be competitive you have to be strong everywhere and not only on the Hockenheim straights. The cars turned around and revised in every detail make it clear that the chassis, however, is not good. And, if Berger, from the height of his experience (and skill), manages to adjust an acceptable result, winning P4, poor Jean Alesi plummets, in a black crisis, into P13. Says Gerhard Berger, at the end of practice:


"The car is quite balanced, but it has no traction and the engine with all the power at high revs certainly doesn't help us in the slower corners. If it goes well I can aim to pick up a few points, in case of dumb luck, I may even get on the podium". 


Jean, on the other hand, as dejected as he is when he takes a beating, cannot hold back a few barbs: 


"I broke an engine in the morning, so I did very little work on the car. But I don't know if the engineers have an idea about what happens on the track". 


Which means: I've tried to explain what doesn't work, but they don't know where to put their hands. When it happens like that you have to let the French driver vent:


"It's obvious that I'm not happy, because I'm a professional. I feel like I'm not being used 100 percent. My position is not what it is these days. And don't tell me that Mansell had won here in 1989 with Ferrari starting twelfth. Even Prost had done better on other occasions, but this is no time for jokes". 


Another interpretation: I cannot go faster with a car that jumps all over the track. By the way, Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi certainly have two very different set-ups, as the Austrian only loses out to the best in certain sections and the Frenchman progresses from start to finish. It is also a matter of track feeling and Gerhard seems to be very comfortable at Budapest. For the race there is little to say: with Schumacher immediately in the lead it will be hard for everyone, even if Hill says that his Williams is better in race trim. The start will therefore be a crucial moment. Normally, given the difficulties in overtaking, there should only be one pit stop for changing tyres and refuelling. On the subject of petrol, another Benetton communiqué was issued on Saturday in which the Anglo-Italian team claimed that the fire at Hockenheim was caused in practice by the imperfect functioning of the system for putting liquid into the tank. This would be proven by the fact that the system manufacturer had modified all the nozzles. This does not detract from the fact that the accusation against Benetton of having deliberately and without permission removed a filter to speed up refuelling remains valid and could be the cause of a heavy punishment. Last note: the weather forecast, if confirmed, certainly does not promise an ideal day for a race. Rain, thunderstorms and winds of over 50 km/h. That's the last thing the Grand Prix could not be run or would be interrupted. Despite everything, the Hungarian Grand Prix was still run on Sunday, 14 August 1994. At the start, despite starting from the clean side of the track, Michael Schumacher got off to a bad start in relation to Damon Hill's Williams, but managed to brake later than the British driver, thus retaking the lead ahead of Damon Hill, David Coulthard, Gerhard Berger, Ukyo Katayama and Martin Brundle at Turn 1. The Jordans of Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello were competitive from the first laps, and the two drivers were able to overtake the McLaren-Peugeot of Martin Brundle and the Tyrrell-Yamaha of Ukyo Katayama. But in carrying out the manoeuvre the two Jordan drivers collide at the second corner and also involve Ukyo Katayama, forcing all three drivers to retire immediately. 


In the meantime Jean Alesi manages to overtake Olivier Panis and move up to sixth place. Nothing changed in the order after the first round of pit stops, except for the delay incurred by Gerhard Berger who returned to the track behind Martin Brundle, Jean Alesi and Jos Verstappen. The bad day for Scuderia Ferrari continued when Alesi's gearbox broke on lap 58, leaving oil on the track that caused a spectacular crash for David Coulthard on lap 59. The Scot was third. Then, on lap 72, the engine on Gerhard Berger's car also broke down, and on the final lap Martin Brundle stopped due to an electrical fault, denying him the podium and giving way to Jos Verstappen who was just behind him. Michael Schumacher calmly proceeded to the finish line and took his seventh victory of the season, preceding Damon Hill, team-mate Jos Verstappen, Martin Brundle, Mark Blundell, on board the Tyrrell-Yamaha, and Olivier Panis, who took sixth place in the Ligier-Renault. There is little to say. Michael Schumacher may, in a couple of months, lose the World Championship due to disqualifications and punishments accumulated by his team, but he remains a driver of high calibre, deserving of the title. Very fast in qualifying and in the race, an excellent tactician, courageous, cool; all the qualities of a true champion. Certainly he is helped by an extraordinarily effective Voltura, like the Benetton, which on a difficult track like the Hungaroring allows itself to bring to the podium even the almost debutant Dutchman Jos Verstappen, just 22 years old, at his sixth race in Formula 1. An abyss between the German's single-seater and all the others. Williams included. Schumacher's seventh win of the season, and immediate revenge after the failure at Hockenheim. No reply, however, not even in a minor tone, for Ferrari, which is experiencing one of the most negative days since the start of the season. 


Already lacking in competitiveness in qualifying, the Maranello cars, which in Germany had aroused favourable impressions and great enthusiasm, plunged back into the abyss of unreliability. Jean Alesi retired on lap 58 with a broken gearbox, Gerhard Berger abandoned with five laps to go due to engine failure. Both were at the time of the exit in P5. But in the course of the race they were also in P3 and P4. The result: the worst of the year, because Ferrari had so far always won, at least, three points per race. Incidentally, the two drivers of the Maranello team had one of their best races: the French driver made an anthology start (taking all the necessary risks, on the right-hand side of the grid, almost in contact with the side wall) recovering six positions in one go, from P13 to P7. Then he fought like a lion, even going ahead of his teammate. Gerhard Berger drove his usual clean, correct, decisive race. But this time neither of them were rewarded for their prolonged efforts. Painful notes also for the race, which did not offer any spectacular highlights. A little due to the excessive supremacy of the Schumacher-Benetton duo. a little due to the characteristics of the track, which only allowed overtaking between a very fast car and a very slow one. In 77 laps there was not a duel worthy not only of being remembered, but also of being mentioned. Unfortunately, the flying refuels turned the races into tactical tests. And it must also be said, going against the tide, that to make the tracks safer and safer will result in less hard-fought races, unless there are at least three or four competitive teams at the same level. Leading without any problems from the start, Schumacher only found himself chasing from lap 17 to lap 21, when the German made the first of his three refuels and changed tyres. In those few passes Damon Hill led the race, but it became clear that the Englishman had little hope of finishing in the lead. 


In fact, the stout Michael, meanwhile, was gaining more than 0.5 seconds per lap and was able to afford the extra stop, ending the race with a 20-second lead that could even have been wider if he had wanted to pull ahead. Instead, in the end, the German driver visually slowed down. Michael Schumacher's strategy paid off well and Damon Hill - all things considered - was also unlucky, because on the occasion of his two stops, when he re-entered the track, he found himself involved in very difficult lapping. The rest is little. Third place for Jos Verstappen, propelled by an electrical failure on the last lap of the very unlucky Brundle with the McLaren, relegated to P4. Fifth place for Blundell with Tyrrell and sixth the young Olivier Panis. For Fiorio’s protégé, Ligier's manager, it is the second consecutive result. The French team is growing and luck is helping it. There is also the World Championship to talk about. Schumacher now has a 31-point lead and the title would almost be his with five races to go (six if the Italian Grand Prix is reinstated). But the threat of disqualification hangs on the German. On Tuesday, 30 August 1994, after the Belgian Grand Prix, there will be an appeal trial against the two-race suspension imposed on him for failing to obey the black flag signal at Silverstone. Later, on Wednesday, 19 October, Benetton will have to defend itself before the FIA World Council against the charge of having unduly removed the filter from the petrol filler neck. Everything, therefore, is still to be decided. There is instead anger and disappointment in the Ferrari box, which returns to Maranello without having collected any useful results. Jean Todi, dark in the face, says: 


"We knew we would face great difficulties in Hungary. But the result and performance were worse than we could have expected. We had a car on the second row and thought we would at least score some points. Instead we were betrayed by two different troubles. The transmission failed on Alesi's car, possibly due to a problem with the oil pump, while an air bubble in the pneumatic valve system blocked the engine of Berger's single-seater". 


Was the tactic adopted the right one?


"We think so. We had planned two stops for Jean and one for Gerhard. Then we saw that the Austrian was having problems with his grip and brakes and we brought him in a few laps earlier. But it was all in vain. However, let's talk about the two positive notes, despite everything: the aerodynamics now work well and the engine is competitive. At Spa, in a fortnight's time, we should be with the best". 


What remains to be done? 


"In mid-August we meet to prepare a programme. We have to work on the suspension geometry and the chassis mechanics. So we will do some; testing, hoping to make decisive progress".


Laconic are the speeches and explanations of the two drivers. Gerhard Berger said: 


"The car was very difficult to drive and I also went off the track. But I was still in the points zone when a copious loss of pressure in the pneumatic valves forced me to stop". 


And Jean Alesi explains the problems that stopped him in this way: 


"The gearbox suddenly locked in neutral. All I had left was to park at the side of the track. It was a shame, because I had made a good start and was firmly in the top six. I must admit that in the race the car was going a little better than in qualifying. But this is too little to be considered a positive result. We have a lot of work to do". 


Ferrari included, the Italians' day in Budapest only reserves seventh place for Michele Alboreto, always very reliable in the race. But the result of the Milanese driver does not appease the anger of Giancarlo Minardi, who for the first time in a long time has an outburst of anger and goes to protest to the race director: 


"Panis with the Ligier left early, when the light was still red, and damaged us. But I couldn't even make a complaint, because the stewards didn't notice the episode. As if that wasn't enough, then Martini went off the track sliding on the oil left - we believe - by Alesi's Ferrari. That would be a nice blessing for us".


It went even worse for Gianni Morbidelli, who crashed his Footwork into the Sauber of Andrea de Cesaris, who was desperately trying to come out of a meadow in which he had spun. The two drivers missed each other and leaned into each other, both eliminated. But the record for bad luck belongs this time to Eddie Jordan, owner of the stable of the same name. His two drivers, Irvine and Barrichello (who has been in crisis for some time now, especially since there has been talk of his possible move to McLaren), battling with Ukyo Kalayama, eliminated each other on the first lap. One bump and all at home. After the tensions of the past few days and the battles to gain a tenth of a second, here is the result. But these things happen in big and small teams, between experienced and novice drivers. Among those complaining is David Coulthard, the Scottish Williams driver. 


"I was driving in third gear when my car went off on its own. I don't have the vaguest idea why this happened".


What a celebration for Michael Schumacher: from the morning it seemed that his success was a foregone conclusion. Lots of German fans came from Germany to shout their joy, then the German anthem on the podium and the whole family to embrace the driver: from his father, with a Mephistophelean beard, to his brother Ralf, an apprentice in Formula 3 and quite successful, to his fiancée Corinna and even Jenny, the little terrier dog that the German driver always carries with him. Only his mother is missing, but someone has to look after the beautiful little house in Kerpen where the Schumacher family lives. 


"A huge joy. I would have liked to finish first at Hockenheim, I hope my fans have forgiven me. Damon came alongside me into the first corner, but I was on the inside and stayed in front. This allowed me to force the pace, to gain that advantage which then allowed me to manage the three scheduled pit stops well. The car was fantastic, with just one set of tires I had a few small problems because the track seemed a bit slippery. For the rest, I have to thank the mechanics and technicians who did a great job".


Damon Hill, on the other hand, appears very disappointed, who hoped to subvert the prediction that is favourable to his rival:


"I immediately understood that with the pace Schumacher had, he should have stopped before me. So I thought: hey, that could be an excellent opportunity to recover and take the lead. Instead I encountered terrible traffic and got stuck in the chase".


Was Benetton unbeatable?


"They adopted the best tactic with the three stops, and they also had a little luck. I'm dissatisfied with the result, but there's nothing to say: Benetton was stronger, despite my car perfectly".


After being on the podium to receive the cup and drink the champagne, Flavio Briatore welcomes journalists with a huge smile:


"An exceptional result, the best of the whole season with Verstappen finally able to collect a placement that was within his reach. Our mechanics were very good: we made a total of six perfect pit stops. He wanted us, after the fear experienced at Hockenheim".


The Benetton Formula One team principal doesn't add anything else. But the usual evil ones with humour comment:


"For the first time, three Briatore cars - two Benettons and a Ligier - have reached the points".


Meanwhile, in Italy, the sixth anniversary of the death of Enzo Ferrari is remembered with the celebration of a mass in the private chapel of the San Cataldo cemetery. Before the service, a wreath of flowers is placed on Enzo Ferrari's tomb by the Municipality of Modena. His son, Piero Lardi, is asked how his father would have reacted to the news of the cancellation of the Monza Grand Prix:


"It's hard to say, he was a man with unpredictable reactions. Surely he would have thrown himself into the fray to prevent the Grand Prix from being cancelled and, in any case, he would have worked to ensure that it could be raced. However, no one can say how it would have ended if my father had intervened in person".


In the evening, in Maranello, another mass is celebrated which is attended by many citizens. And, in the meantime, the rumours about Ayrton Senna's accident at Imola continue. Williams rightly rejects all the accusations circulated in recent months, waiting first for the end of the investigation and the judgement of the Bolognese judiciary. But the latest item collected is worthy of being taken into consideration: someone says that the Brazilian's helmet wasn't perfectly regular. Those who have been able to examine it, note that it bends too easily in the front. Perhaps, also due to a collision. But riders have a habit of modifying their helmets, mostly to reduce their weight. In case of tampering, however, a pilot's helmet no longer meets the homologation standards. This could lead to problems with Ayrton Senna's life insurance policy. The information is confirmed by the fact that the FIA took the helmets of four drivers to have models available (editor's note: subsequently, this theory will be denied during the trial held in Bologna by public prosecutor Passarini).


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